‘There’s no medical need’ – PAHO does not recommend revaccination
By Vishani Ragobeer
Though some countries will only be accepting travellers who are fully vaccinated with specific COVID-19 vaccines and not others like the Sputnik V vaccine, PAHO Assistant Director Dr. Jarbas Barbosa says that these specifications will impose additional barriers on people.
Dr. Barbosa said this while answering a question from the News Room during the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO)’s weekly virtual press briefing. The News Room had asked about PAHO’s position on revaccination, given recent travel advisories from the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and Canada.
“In a situation where there are so many inequalities in access (to vaccines), any additional requests about vaccines can be a barrier that will increase inequity in access by people.
“Our recommendation is that access should be broadened in all countries,” Dr. Barbosa said.
PAHO officials have repeatedly lamented the unequal access to vaccines by developing countries such as those in the Latin America and Caribbean region. This limited access has disadvantaged many countries, and places their citizens at a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
More recently, the travel advisories issued by some countries indicate that only travellers who are fully vaccinated with specific COVID-19 vaccines will be allowed entry. And, the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which is widely used in Guyana, is not among the list of recognised vaccines.
Therefore, people fully vaccinated with this Russian vaccine will not be permitted to travel to these countries. As such, some people have considered whether they should get revaccinated with a recognised vaccine; revaccination refers to getting vaccinated with another COVID-19 vaccine even though you are already fully vaccinated.
On Wednesday, Dr. Barbosa emphasised these emerging vaccine specifications will “make things difficult and separate countries”.
This is similar to statements made by President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Gaston Browne have urged countries not to become divided based on the type of vaccines administered to citizens. They both made these calls during their respective addresses to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Speaking specifically on people’s interest in getting revaccinated to allow easy travel, the PAHO Assistant Director firmly stated: “We do not recommend taking a second vaccine.
“There is no medical need for the health of people to take other vaccines, there are no studies guaranteeing that this is a safe procedure (and) so we do not recommend (getting) vaccinated twice.”
Dr. Barbosa recommended instead that countries abstain from implementing restrictive barriers, cognisant that access to vaccines still remains a global challenge.
Even though the PAHO official stated the body’s position on the matter, it is unclear whether the body will advocate for wider vaccine acceptance and a modification of the travel advisories.
In the interim, Advisor to the Health Ministry Dr. Leslie Ramsammy says that the government is exploring several solutions to facilitate travel, including possible revaccination of people.
Dr. Ramsammy, however, stated: “We want countries like the US, UK and so on to know that the vaccines that they want for their people are the vaccines we would have used too.
“But you didn’t make it available to us and we are not going to sacrifice the health and the lives of our people so that we can use vaccines that these countries feel they should limit their people too.”
The Advisor also championed the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, which has not yet received approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) but has been used in more than 70 countries around the world.